R.I.P. – Brubeck

Dave Brubeck, whose music’s wit so delighted my parent’s generation – died at 91. He reminds us of another era, when smoking meant subtle lights in a dimmed room and when pauses spoke as couples in quiet clubs paid thoughtful respect to a music that moved and innovated and then returned to its roots before launching out, reaching out, again.

The obituaries seem fewer – he played long into a different culture. But Brubeck and Theolonious Monk and Jerry Mulligan were the sound tracks of the Baby Boomers’ parents and remind us of a vision that took notes, creating again and again a new order, a new beauty. Improvisations are grounded on Youtube: the interaction between musicians and an engaged audience lost, they remain to explain that time and those people. As the sixties became the seventies, we thought the fifties plastic, conformist, simple. All those vinyls my father loved remind us it was more complicated than we knew – perhaps because they were, themselves, like the music -laconic, cerebral even. Elvis and the Beatles, rock and country – for decades they all lived side by side with Brubeck.

Born Dec. 6, 1920, Brubeck grew up on a ranch, planed to become a veternarian. He died Dec. 5, 1912 in Connecticut. His life appears full and generative: New York Times, NPR. YouTube from the Times.

6 thoughts on “R.I.P. – Brubeck”

  1. It was a time of racial harmony, when white people partied in Harlem clubs, and the word Daddy-o was used a lot. In those days we flew from NYC to Havana and back just to visit the clubs and dance.

  2. I saw Brubeck in concert, on tour with his sons sometime around 1979-80. At one point during the show, the PA system went haywire and they stopped the show. During the 15 minutes that the techs worked on the problem, Dave sat down at the grand piano and began to improvise by himself. The tunes ranged all over the musical map, from big band jazz riffs to bits of the Beatles to – when a baby cried in the audience – a measure or two of Brahms’ Lullaby. It was the most delightful and unpredictable part of a fantastic concert.
    Dave’s sons were, I think, in their early to mid 20’s and very accomplished musicians themselves. I recall one (I forget his name) was the drummer and performed a drum solo that started with one limb (probably the kick drum)in one time signature. One by one, he brought in the other three limbs, each in a different time signature, ending up with an amazing mix of 4 different beats – all simultaneously. I’ve never seen another drummer since that could do that.
    Dave was a remarkable talent and apparently quite a father as well. God bless him and his family.

  3. }}} It was a time of racial harmony, when white people partied in Harlem clubs, and the word Daddy-o was used a lot. In those days we flew from NYC to Havana and back just to visit the clubs and dance.

    I don’t think it was quite as easy being black. I think there was a lot of subtle secondary racism even in those whites who hung with blacks. That was definitely a time of conformity to excess, and “free, white, and 21” was the rule of the time. It was the first forays to racial integration, and that was a needful first step towards true harmony§

    Tom Hanks’ period piece “That Thing You Do” is a great example, I think, contrasted with The Help and Far From Heaven.

    You’ll note, BTW, in the 60s, that two of the most popular series were about living in suburbia and dealing with the desperate fear of people finding out you weren’t “normal”: I Dream Of Jeannie and Bewitched.

    § I believe racial and sexual harmony peaked in the 80s, after which, the race baiters and the sex hustlers got all bent up because they were losing power, and that wasn’t allowed to happen. The best argument towards this was the consistent high ratings of the Cosby Show — Americans of every stripe clearly had no problem with a black family of educated, intelligent, and successful people. I think the current social “default” picture of a black man and/or a black family are far less positive.

  4. I’ll take some more Steel please. His solo stuff is good but not up to the Dan’s level.

    Dave was wonderful. He will be missed. I think I miss Dizzy most still.

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